Since 2015, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has promoted graduate doctorate level training for advance practice registered nurses.  The AACN’s “Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing” calls for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to pursue training that enables them to assume organizational roles encompassing increased clinical responsibilities. As time goes on, APRNs are increasingly practicing to the full extent of their capabilities.
Factors such as the population’s treatment demands and the professional environment of modern medicine accelerate momentum toward nursing doctoral training and the growth of the number of nurses who have earned a Doctorate in Nursing endorsement. With support from health advocacy organizations, such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Joint Commission, nursing academia is preparing a new class of doctoral nursing professionals to answer the population’s growing medical needs.
America’s changing health care environment has created an increased need for advanced practice registered nurses.  Over time, treatment quality concerns, a shortage of nurse leaders, and the increase in educational requirements for all health professionals, have made advanced training for nurses a more realistic prospect.
As a result, health care leaders, such as the National Academy of Sciences, now call for more advanced nurse practitioners with doctoral education in clinical practice rather than the traditional doctoral research degree. As a result, the nursing profession is experiencing growth in doctoral accreditation similar to what has taken place in other disciplines such as dentistry, physical therapy, and psychology.
The Doctorate of Nursing practice has emerged due to societal and professional needs.  In this vein, the IOM and National Research Council of the National Academies calls for an increase in advanced nurse education. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) candidates study a broad class of sciences that allow them to quickly utilize their skills in the clinical environment. This broad course of study is necessary so that DNPs learn the expertise needed to treat emerging and future health issues. Because of this, standard DNP curricula will evolve along with the population’s health needs.
To support advanced nursing education, the AACN vows to work with medical professionals in creating a highly-qualified DNP talent pool.  The organization believes that their support will improve nursing clinical competency and patient treatment outcomes. In testament to the need for more advanced practice registered nurse practitioners, the IOM published a highly-regarded report called The Future of Medicine in 2010, which recommended that the percentage of bachelorette trained nurse practitioners needs to approach 80-pecent of all APRNs, and the number of doctoral advanced practice registered nurses needs to double.
Traditionally, APRNs earn master’s degree accreditation. Some master’s degree certifications require enough college credits to qualify as doctoral degrees in other medical professions. The Doctor of Nursing Practice curricula builds on master’s degree training in health care related coursework such as evidence-based practices, leadership, quality improvement, patient advocacy, and informatics.
Doctoral training will not change the scope of practice for APRNs.  However, the training will better prepare them for their current roles and responsibilities as new care models emerge and the health care field increases in complexity.
The IOM’s report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, made a plea for increased education among undergraduate and graduate nursing professionals. In response, academic institutions have increased doctoral offerings and more APRNs have pursued DNP training. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that this was more prevalent in 2013 compared to now. However, there is renewed interest in the topic as care provider organizations look for ways to deliver services to a swelling patient population.
Today, DNPs treat more than physical maladies; they also focus on the emotional, spiritual, and cultural aspects of treatment. Distinguished APRNs improve population health by utilizing their expertise in clinical practices that are based on empirical evidence and fit into organizational, political, community, and cultural objectives.
A piece by the Institute of Medicine regarding the promotion of the Doctor of Nursing Practice role reports that there were 243 DNP programs in the United States in 2014 and 70 more programs in development.  As more programs emerge, a new process for the certification of DNP practitioners may emerge as well. Despite this, Doctor of Nursing Programs will prepare a new group of health care professionals to serve at their full capability in the highest level of nursing practice attainable.
Health care is seeing an industry-wide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, the Regis College’s BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice online program can prepare you for advanced nursing practice.